Building a Telecaster, Chapter 5 - Blunt Instruments #1701

So... here we are. A guitar is assembled. Time for some post mortem on the project.

I've been keeping myself busy lately, and all the other stuff has kept me from reporting from the guitar front. There has been progress, enough so that the guitar is playable. Not entirely finished, but playable. Not bad for a first build, I guess.

Suddenly, it was starting to look like an instrument
The first time I really felt this build was going to amount to something was sometime in the winter, at the point pictured above; the body was shaped, the neck far enough for a test fit into its pocket and the pick guard roughly cut out. There is power in an image, just having those as separate pieces didn't feel at all like something had been accomplished but as soon as you could see them in the right configuration it just clicked...

Crack in pocket

Failure is always an option

Of course, there were a few minor setbacks along the way, like the time I discovered the neck pocket had developed cracks in the week that had passed since I last had laid my eyes on the body. Ended up spending quite some time filling those with super glue, it just kept disappearing in there!

I hope that spot is strong enough now...

Torn by the router
And then there's the pretty ugly tearout that happened when I was routing the body contour...

Good thing I intended this guitar as a tool, not an exhibition piece or investment. Little dings and dents only add character. And there'll be more of them in the years to come, I'm sure.

One ghetto pickguard on the way

Paths that shouldn't be taken

Now that I'm slightly wiser, I can say with some confidence that I won't be making another pickguard out of sheet metal. It's a lot of work and the results aren't really that good after wearing out a few Dremel bits and filling the work space with metal dust. Maybe with a lot more work (or some other strategy for making it) it could be made pretty. The opening for the humbucker turned out to be the ugliest spot of them all, straight edges that need to have a tight fit against something are always the most challenging.

On the upside, the metal should be a pretty good shielding and grounding material...

Good stuff
Wood on a stick, unfinished sweet

Of course, some things went great, too. All can't be pain, suffering and failure. For instance, the finishing of the body was easy and uneventful. I applied 2 or 3 coats of beige Osmo Color wax and it worked great, I really like the look and feel of the surface. There's no stickiness against the skin like my painted guitar seems to have, especially in summer. And I think the wax somehow highlights the grain of the alder a bit, too. The sides are in some places a bit heavy on the rustic "faded white barn wall" effect with a little too much wax having accumulated there, but the front and back are nice.

Strung up

The first two strings installed to help align the neck
In April, when most of everything was done, I finally could put the guitar together and put some strings on it. That went mostly well, even if some minor details needed adjusting along the way, mostly in the control cavities. And then came the disappointments.

First of all, it's neck heavy. It's pretty clear from looking that the short upper horn on the Tele puts the centre of gravity outside the strap buttons more easily than e.g. a Strat. Add to that tuners that might not be the lightest, and a bit more wood has been removed from the body than on a standard model... I'll have to work something out to get this remedied.

And then there's the whole pickup switcheroo thing I spent time thinking about. Sure, it's working as in "not crackling or destroying the sound in any way", but it's not contributing a lot, either. I think the phase reversal concept is broken by too much distance between the pickups, maybe the vibrations of the strings are less correlated this way than on my other guitar, where the idea works great? And the neck pickup on its own sounds pretty much the same no matter if one or two coils are connected. Wasn't worth it this time, but you never know until you try.

And the pickups bleed signal. I select a pickup and turn it down all the way, and there's a little bit of signal from the other one coming through. Annoying as hell, and more so in high gain situations. This is something I have to look into. Probably a grounding thing.

I only have myself to blame for the tone pots being wrong. I chose linear pots after reading quite a bit of forums on the matter, with no clear consensus. But there were a bunch of people claiming linear works, so I thought I'd try it, even if my gut feeling said no. Now I know better.

Now what?!

Slightly rough in places
As of now, the guitar is a guitar. I can get acceptably low action, and the intonation seems good enough. I'm going to take it to pieces for some final touch-ups before I call it done. That's why half the screws are missing at the moment.

But before that I'll play through this first pack of strings and get familiar with the beast. The traditional 7.25" fretboard radius is quite a change from the maybe 16" I've played before, and the upper frets feel a bit hard to reach. Both are things I'll just have to get used to, I guess.

Maybe I'll paint the pickguard, maybe I'll just polish it, or maybe I'll find some other way out. I could even leave it as it is, complete with residue from the black double-stick tape I used to attach the paper template I was working from. That would be pretty punk-ish. The neck pickup needs to be moved a little bit, and I'll have to get a humbucker mounting ring to cover for the ugly edges of that hole, anyway. So that's one thing that'll change.

The neck needs some finish. It's perfectly playable in its natural wood state, but I think it should have at least some protection against sweat and grime. Lazy as I am, I might very well use the same wax as on the body. Shopping for something else is a chore, with all those endless options to confuse me...

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